Category: Visual Art
This weekend, I was privileged to participate in an event about the promise and pitfalls of youth-driven digital media. I joined the panel at the last minute when one previously scheduled speaker fell ill.
When I got home, I checked Twitter and saw the following video produced by Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS – @ChiStudentsOrg) announcing their April 24th boycott.
You can also listen to 17 year old high school senior Brian Stirgus talk on Power92 about the impact of the school closures and about their planned protest this Wednesday. The traditional media has also covered the students’ efforts here.
I am so heartened to see that young people across Chicago continue to organize for social justice. It’s exciting that they are using digital media to help mobilize and engage others in their struggles. We should hope that these protests grow because this would signal that young people remain idealistic and retain some hope. I submit that the moment when these protests cease is when we should deeply worry. Young people who have no hope that their actions can impact positive change become nihilistic. Thank God that our youth in Chicago continue to believe in their own power to affect change.
I so wish that I could join in their action this Wednesday but I am organizing another event that conflicts. If you are a parent or guardian, I hope that you will support these young people by encouraging your own children to participate in the boycott. I hope that you will also show up as an adult ally to support these youth.
Once again, the terrifically talented Sarah Jane Rhee was present with her camera at Wednesday’s Chicago School Closings Protest. I have selected some of the photographs that illustrate the message that we need to fund schools rather than prisons/jails.
On my bad days, I like to remember that we have a generation of young people who are as committed to social justice as any who have come before. In Chicago, young people are mobilizing against Rahm Emanuel’s announced school closures; the largest in this nation’s history.
Sara Johnson, a senior at Roosevelt High School and a student leader with Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, explained the coalition’s demands:
As usual, my friend, the intrepid & gifted Sarah Jane Rhee was on the scene of the student protest documenting the action. We, in Chicago, are blessed that Sarah lives here and that she is so generous with her photography skills. You can see all of Sarah’s photographs from yesterday’s student protest here. Her caption for the photos reads:
“On Monday, March 25, 2013, the first day of spring break for many CPS schools, Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools held a press conference at CPS Headquarters calling on the mayor and CPS to abandon its plan to shutter 50+ schools. They made three specific demands, which were detailed in an oversized letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: 1) an immediate moratorium on ALL school closings; 2) TIF funding to be reformed and the funds to be used for CPS schools; and 3) an elected school board. From the press conference, the students and allies marched two blocks north to City Hall and crowded into the mayor’s 5th floor office, where they demanded to meet with Rahm. The mayor’s office sent out a representative who received the oversized letter with demands to take to the mayor. The students employed the people’s mic (i.e. “mic check!”) to relay their message to the press that was present and chanted “We’ll be back!” as an indication that this, their first action, would not be their last.”
Below are a few wonderful photographs documenting yesterday’s student protest:
My friend Billy Dee, who volunteers with my organization and often collaborates with me on art-related projects wrote the following reflections about ze’s visit with Bowen High School students as part of the Black and Blue: Art on Policing, Violence and Resistance exhibit.
This past week I had an opportunity to meet students from Bowen High School who shared amazing artworks with Project NIA for an exhibit entitled Black & Blue: Art on Policing, Violence, and Resistance. The students made linocut prints in response to the topic of the exhibit with art-teacher Bert Stabler. They generously shared over a hundred colorful and thought provoking pieces that we were able to display in both the gallery and the storefront windows, where they caught the eye of many passers-by at the U.I.C. SJI (Social Justice Initiative) Pop-Up art Gallery. I was impressed by the students artworks as they addressed issues ranging from the systemic racist violence in the C.P.D., to personal experiences of police violence, to the police harassment faced by trans people. One artwork that caught my eye as we installed the exhibit was a piece in which the artist had engraved an image of a C.P.D. badge accompanied by the phrase “we dirty up the black, but keep the white clean”. I was able to meet the young woman who made this piece during the visit, and told her that I thought her piece made a strong statement. What she said in response was interesting to me- she said something to the effect of: “I didn’t want to offend anybody, but that is what I was thinking, so that is the phrase I used in my piece.” I made sure to explain that making a strong statement in one’s art is something I respect very much, and that I found the piece both beautiful and also impactful.
I had a chance to talk to several students, and almost everyone I talked to mentioned some type of negative experience with the CPD. As we talked, we reviewed the stated purpose of the police (“to serve and protect”). A few students noted that the police can (and sometimes do) “serve and protect” but too-often this takes place on their own terms.
One young woman talked about the way that the police target her home neighborhood of Roseland. She talked about the fact that she sees cops all over the place, but does not let them intimidate her as she knows her rights when they approach on the street (yeah!). During the visit, a young man who was not able to finish his linocut for the exhibit shared a drawing to add to the artworks. Below a simple portrait, he wrote the phrase “Inmate of Society welcome to the end of You life of Police Brutality”. In addition to the artwork, the exhibit included a map on which visitors could use pins to mark locations in the city of Chicago where they had witnessed or experienced a negative interaction with police. During the visit, someone pinned an index card onto the map with the words “my sister was shot and killed”.
Continuing with the theme of the week, this is a great photo by Anderson Chaves, a young person who is a member of LuchArte. The photo titled “This is Not Where I Want My Education” is included in the Black and Blue exhibit. Chaves also has the following artwork in the show.
Stop by this Saturday to see the art and to participate in a reading about policing, violence and resistance.
So this week has been terrific and exhausting so far.
I am grateful to my friend Billy Dee for designing a great art exhibition. My friends Eva and Claudia stepped up to help with set up as well. My thanks to all of the artists who contributed to the exhibit and to the amazing volunteers who created the pamphlets that inspired this exhibit and series of events. The exhibition has been incredibly well received and the event well-attended. My deepest gratitude to everyone.
We are screening “Death of Two Sons” this evening at 6 p.m. Feel free to join us. Details are here.
Below are some photographs taken by the most talented Sarah Jane Rhee. Those who can’t make it to see the exhibition in person can now travel through parts of it with Sarah’s wonderful photos.
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